“OUR TOP TEN REFLECTIONS MAY NOT SURPRISE YOU, BUT OUR NUMBER ONE WILL LEAVE YOU STUNNED”
We walked part of the Camino Frances and all of the Camino Portuguese in June and July of 2019. As of today, we’ve been home for exactly a month. We have been extremely busy since we’ve been home with little time to reflect but the Camino is always on our mind. Creating a list of our top 10 reflections is tough because it may be too early to genuinely process our experiences. However, we think this is a pretty good representation.
#10 – Every Camino is Different
We didn’t consciously go into this Camino with a list of expectations; however, since we walked the Camino Frances, from St. John Pied de Port, France to Finisterre, in 2017 we unconsciously had more expectations than we realized. For example, being teachers the overall time of year we walked was the same for both. However, we started in León, Spain this trip around the 10th of June when last time we didn’t arrive in León until the 4th of July. A month makes a difference that we didn’t expect. Last time it was the festival season, this time it was large groups of school children walking the Camino as their end of the year school trip.
Additionally, we heard the Camino Portuguese has fewer people; however, we figured that would make people want to bond more. Not in our case, remember every Camino is different, people were already in self-proclaimed groups or wanted to be alone. The other factor we had is we biked from Lisbon to Porto and then walked from Porto to Santiago so we didn’t have the ability to follow at the same pace as others. The final major unexpected factor was the sheer foot pain I was in for most of the trip. I wasn’t the happiest person all of the time and it greatly impacted our experience.
#9 – The Camino Tells You When to Stop
This is a tough one for me to admit because I want to be unstoppable. However, the Camino will humble anyone. In January through March of 2017, I was in a walking boot for a stress fracture on the top of my left foot. We walked the Camino Frances that year in June and July. The Camino wasn’t too bad, I had my bad days and I should have had foot surgery as soon as we returned home. But I didn’t. Sadly, after more over-training and overuse, I was back in a walking boot from March to May 2019 for two stress fractures on the top of the same foot. I needed surgery but the Camino was calling. I scheduled my surgery for August 2019. As of now, I am 2 weeks post-op and though I can’t bear weight on my foot, I am in significantly less pain.
If you skip to the end of the video below, you will see my reflections about walking the Camino after only 3 weeks into our 8 week trip. I was humbled, broken, and yet inspired by what I was learning from the Camino. Another pilgrim on the Camino said, “listen to the whispers before they become screams.” He was right, great advice, the Camino is always talking to you.
#8 – Never Judge Someone’s Footwear
Yes, there is an unintentional theme going on here regarding feet but when it comes to the Camino it is the most important discussion, food is second and it’s next on our list so hang tight. Brian and I are completely different when it comes to foot problems, I have a lot and he has none. He walked our 2017 and 2019 Caminos entirely in Chaco sandals, linked below, and had zero feet problems. He used O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet cream every night to help with dry skin.
I need to wear one specific pair of shoes, they need to fit my feet with bunions and hammertoes and need to be wide-ish but my feet are not wide enough for wide shoes. Not all Merrell shoes work for me but the Moabs, linked below, are a great shoe for me. Additionally, I love toe socks and wool socks. I alternate wearing them both when hiking. Unfortunately for this Camino because I was in a boot for so long and I was trying out a different pair of Merrell’s I didn’t wear my Moab’s. Big mistake, always trust the shoes you know. If you can walk all day around an amusement park and still want to continue the next day, those are the shoes to walk in.
Every single person on the Camino is wearing the shoes they think will be the best, some based on experience, others based on someone else’s input. So many people expressed shock when they saw Brian in his Chacos but never said anything to me. However, I was the one struggling.
#7 – The Food in Portugal is Amazing
We didn’t know what to expect when it came to Portuguese food as it’s not a cuisine that you hear about in restaurants. But holy cow were we pleasantly surprised when we arrived! The food was flavorful, colorful, and though there were common staples, there was a nice variety. The one thing we knew was Portugal was known for their pastries and they did not disappoint. They had both sweet and savory, you could find them on every corner, and we ate a lot of them! Haha
Our favorite restaurant on the Camino Portuguese was Tudo aos Molhos in Sao Joao da Madeira. Jorge, the owner and host, takes a level of pride in the food he serves that is rarely seen in home kitchens, let alone busy restaurants. For us, this place is probably the biggest not to miss stop of Portugal! You can see our meal beginning at 2:52 in the video below.
The bottom line is we ate our way through Portugal and it was amazing! If you have favorite Portuguese food, leave a comment.
#6 – Porto has Port, Lisbon has Soul
We thought for sure we would love Porto more than Lisbon. Why? I have no idea, maybe something we heard, maybe the draw of Port wine, maybe the water, who knows. I am not sure why we were trying to pick one over the other except that we had 3 days at the end of our trip and we were trying to decide where to spend those days. Early in our trip planning, we picked Lisbon without much thought and then we changed our minds but we were locked into a non-refundable hotel. This all happened before we saw either city but we had to stick with spending our 3 days in Lisbon and we pouted about it for a few months. Now, I am disappointed that we spent so much time pouting because from the moment the plane landed for a 7 hour layover in Lisbon we were in love.
The beach, the buildings, the character, the Tuk-Tuks, the people, the wine, the music, and the neighborhoods, there is so much to say about Lisbon. Brian created a “48 hours in Lisbon” video, it’s linked below. There will also be another 48 hour video about Lisbon in the coming weeks, subscribe to our YouTube channel to get notified when that video drops.
We stayed in the neighborhood of Alfama both times we were in Lisbon, both during our layover between Camino’s and at the end of the trip. The first time we were in Lisbon they were celebrating the Festa de Lisboa which celebrates the barrios (neighborhoods) of Lisbon for the entire month of June. The whole city is decked out for the party and it is sure not to disappoint. Grilled sardines in the street, fado music floating out of doorways, vino Porto, Ginja, sangria, and so many more drinks to sample keep partiers going all night long for the entire month! Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods having survived the earthquake of 1755 and they take the party up a notch. During the rest of the year, Alfama is a little quieter during the day, but in the evenings this neighborhood comes to life and should not be missed.
Wait? Where are the last 5 reflections? I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait until next week. But I promise it will be worth the wait. There is still much to reflect upon, it’s too much for one blog post. I will give you a hint – when we walk the Camino again, we won’t do it the same way. Our number one reflection even shocked us!
We will have a YouTube video out on Sunday and another blog post will come out on Wednesday. Be sure to subscribe to both our blog and our YouTube channel if you like what you are reading.
Until next time…